Thirteen Chances starts with a cute idea: A couple has been in love for centuries, but bungled magic has kept them apart. The heroine appears every 72 years, and the hero makes her fall in love with him – only to lose her. The fact that it didn’t really work had more to do with the execution than the premise.
Emma Calhoun doesn’t know it, but her unexplainable yearning to visit Arrick by the Sea is part of a curse. A wedding photographer in Savannah, Emma packs up rather suddenly to spend a month near the Welsh castle, hoping that she will discover something about her tie to the place. She stays at a Bed and Breakfast, which unbeknownst to her, is run by four witches with a vested interest in her happy ending. This time will be the thirteenth chance for Emma and Christian, and the last chance to get it right. Christian is an 800 year old ghost who lost his life in the Crusades, and remains on earth because he promised to wait for Emma – his love.
Initially, Christian decides that the whole process of wooing Emma only to lose her is just too painful, so decides that he will scare her away from the castle. Though Emma has no trouble accepting the existence of ghosts, she also doesn’t scare easily. Christian then decides that they will spend time together, but will just be friends. But he can’t stop flirting. So his new strategy is to take Emma to another castle for a complete change of scene, so she won’t remember her past lives. They go to a friend’s castle, where there is a medieval tournament involving ghosts and humans. They meet a zillion people, and it goes on forever. Emma decides she loves Christian and decides she can save him. Initially, it looks like her attempt has failed. And then it works, and they get married. The end.
And that’s pretty much it. Oh, it takes a whole book to get there, but the primary reason is that every character from all of Miles’ past books makes an appearance, along with the characters who will undoubtedly populate future books. Books I can assure you that I will not be reading. I lacked the ability, desire, and interest to keep them all straight, and the fact that all their names sounded the same was no help either. At one point, one of them comments innocently, “Have you noticed that all our names start with A or E?” I had noticed, actually. And I can’t fathom why anyone would name heroines Allie, Ellie, and Andi, or why anyone would think it was possible to keep them all straight. As the tournament wore on and characters flitted on and off screen, and I began to suspect that their real raison d’etre was to take up space and give Emma and Christian something to do.
Emma and Christian are innocuous enough. Anyone would root for two hapless souls who have been trying to get together for 800 years. Unfortunately, they don’t have a whole lot of personality, either. Christian has hot tattoos, is good with a sword, and is devoted to Emma. That’s it. Emma’s most distinguishing characteristic is her squeaky-clean avoidance of anything that might be construed as a swear word. She refers to herself as a “ding dong” and frequently exclaims, “Holy Ho Ho!” – presumably because “Holy Crap!” would just be too offensive. When she takes a fall and nearly dies, her potty mouth rears its ugly head, and she lets “crapola” escape her lips. Experimentally, I asked a friend at work if anyone she knew would use the word “ding dong”. After looking puzzled, she replied, “Maybe my seventy year old mom?” Memo to the author: no one in their twenties talks like this; it borders on creepy.
On the other hand, I’ve certainly read worse. Ghost/time travel romances can be really silly, and I’ve read some real winners in my day. This one manages to avoid absurdity, but it just isn’t all that interesting. Unless you are dying to find out what the holy ho ho is up with Ellie, Allie, Andi and whoever, I’d give Thirteen Chances a pass.